What Not To Eat During Pregnancy

One of the earliest ways we can begin to care for our baby starts during pregnancy with optimal nutrition. As our bodies are now designed to share what we eat with our growing child, many women wonder what foods to avoid during pregnancy.  Here is a list of what not to eat during pregnancy that highlights the foods that could be potentially dangerous to your baby.  

1) Raw foods: This includes raw meat, fish, shell fish, poultry and eggs.  Meats that are not cooked, or are even undercooked, have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella, toxoplasmosis and coliform bacteria.  All of which can cross the placenta and be harmful to the fetus.  You should also be wary of foods and sauces that contain raw eggs like Caesar dressing, hollandaise sauce and certain homemade mayonnaises and custards.  And of course, you’re going to need to hold off on licking the bowl of brownie batter or sneaking unbaked cookie dough until your little one has been born. 

2) Fish high in mercury levels: According to the American Pregnancy Association, a high level of mercury consumption during pregnancy has been linked to brain damage and other developmental delays.  Fish that may contain high levels of mercury include tilefish, king mackerel, shark, swordfish and tuna.  Canned tuna contains lower levels of mercury but should still only be consumed in moderation.  

3) Unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses: Unpasteurized milk can contain a dangerous bacteria called listeria.  If listeria crosses the placenta and infects the baby or the bloodstream, it can result in miscarriage. Although most cheeses that are made in the United States only contain pasteurized milk, imported cheeses often do not.  Soft cheeses include Mexican cheeses such as queso fresco and queso blanco, feta, Gorgonzola, goat cheese, Roquefort, brie and Camembert.  Be sure that the ingredients state that the product is made from pasteurized milk if you do decide to consume soft cheeses during pregnancy. 

4) Deli meats & hot dogs: Deli meats also have the potential to cause foodborne illnesses like listeriosis, the infection caused by the bacteria listeria.  If you choose to eat deli meat or hot dogs while pregnant, be sure to heat the meat until it is steaming to kill any remaining bacteria.

  5) Smoked seafood: Seafood labeled as smoked, lox, kippered, nova style or jerky should be avoided while pregnant.  These methods of preparation do not ensure the elimination of bacteria that could be potentially harmful to the baby.  

6) Pate: Refrigerated meat spreads and pate should not be consumed while pregnant due to risk of listeriosis. 

7) Alcohol: There is no amount of alcohol that has been proven to be safe for the baby during pregnancy.  Fetal exposure to alcohol can lead to developmental disorders, facial deformities, heart defects, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and in extreme cases, miscarriage and stillbirth. The safest option is to avoid alcohol altogether while pregnant.  

8) Caffeine: There are conflicting opinions as to whether or not caffeine is advisable during pregnancy.  Some studies have suggested that there might be a relationship between excessive caffeine consumption and premature birth, low birth weight and even miscarriage. Further research is necessary though to draw a direct correlation. A good rule of thumb is to limit your consumption to 200 milligrams per day if you do choose to enjoy caffeinated beverages while pregnant. Try this Chai Tea recipe as an alternative to caffeine during pregnancy.

9) Unwashed fruits and vegetables: Be sure to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables to avoid intake of harmful bacteria and pesticides.  Raw sprouts should be avoided all together during pregnancy due to risk of disease.This may seem like an overwhelming list of foods to avoid during pregnancy.  But with a little attention to ingredients and an overall healthy diet, you can help ensure your baby is thriving in the womb.

10) No ice cream!  We know some of our mamas hate this one, especially during a Minnesota summer.  But we say this with good reason (and not to be mean!).  Ice cream is too highly concentrated with fat, sugar, and calories to eat safely on a regular basis during pregnancy.  Truly, we have seen the effects of frequent ice cream consumption on many women in our practice: they often have bigger babies and remarkably more difficult deliveries.    We strongly recommend that women avoid ice cream or strictly limit it to no more than a small serving once a week at the most.

For questions about nutrition or other pregnancy and birthing related topics, contact Health Foundations to schedule a consultation with a midwife or a tour of the Birth Center.